Documentary using private tapes of Princess Diana slammed by critics

Documentary using private tapes of Princess Diana slammed by critics. Photo copyright Nick Parfjonov

The decision to broadcast private tapes of Princess Diana discussing her life with her voice coach has been the source of great controversy this week.
British broadcaster Channel 4 will air a documentary about the late Princess on Sunday, with much of the content being taken from conversations Diana had with her voice coach in the mid-1990s.
Documentary using private tapes of Princess Diana slammed by critics. Photo copyright Nick Parfjonov
The recordings were taken at a time when Diana’s marriage with Prince Charles had ended, and she was preparing to tell her own side of the story in a BBC Panorama interview.
She was speaking with her voice coach, former Coronation Street actor Peter Settelen.
The tapes fell into the hands of Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell after her death in 1997. During a raid on his house in 2001, recordings of seven of the thirteen sessions Diana had with her voice coach were discovered.
A legal battle over the ownership of the tapes took place between Settelen and the Spencer estate, with the High Court eventually ordering they be returned to the voice coach.
He sold the rights to the tapes to American channel NBC in 2004, but until now they have never been broadcast in the UK.
Critics have come out in force to slam Channel 4 for the broadcast.
Author Penny Junor, who has written extensively about the Royal Family, compared it to “stopping to look at a motorway pile-up to look at the gory details”.
She added: “It is just plain exploitation, it is ghoulish and it is immoral.
“This is just another way of exploiting Diana. It’s not what Charles would want and it’s clearly not what the boys would want. It will be deeply hurtful to them.
“I think it will cause enormous upset. And for what? To get Channel Four’s viewing figures up?
“Diana is always going to be able to cause waves [for the Royal family]. As long as the media continues with its fascination, she will never be able to rest in peace.”
The impact the documentary will have on Princes William and Harry has also been highlighted, as the 20 year anniversary of their mother’s death approaches.
The brothers took part in a recent ITV documentary about their late mother, in part so that they would retain some control of how she will be remembered.
However, despite the criticism, the Channel 4 documentary has been made and will be broadcast.
The footage includes Diana speaking about the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles, her admitting her love for her bodyguard and her fears that Palace officials would attempt to sideline her and take away her sons.
Ingrid Seward, author of ‘Diana: The Last Words’, is another critic of the Channel 4 show. She said: “When she was sat there recording these tapes, I don’t think she would ever have thought they would get out like this.
“But I think one of her friends told her ‘you need to be a bit careful, one day this guy will make his pension out of this’.
“Diana was very open and she told people things, about herself and about her life. But she never expected the Andrew Morton tapes to be in the first person either so perhaps she was a little too trusting.
“Where is Peter Settelen now? When the recordings were released in America he did give some interviews but now I believe he has run for the hills.
“I think it was pretty low of him to sell these. When someone does something like this, she was giving him her trust.
“She should have been on high alert but when you start talking, Diana was one of those people that it all came tumbling out.”
Despite the criticism, the documentary is expected to be watched by millions of intrigued viewers when broadcast.
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Written by Andrew Moore